Sydenham, London

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Sydenham Avenue SE26.JPG
Sydenham Avenue
Greater London UK location map 2.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Greater London
Population28,378 (SE25 postcode area) [1]
OS grid reference TQ352714
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SE26
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°25′31″N0°03′16″W / 51.4254°N 0.0544°W / 51.4254; -0.0544 Coordinates: 51°25′31″N0°03′16″W / 51.4254°N 0.0544°W / 51.4254; -0.0544

Sydenham ( /ˈsɪdənəm/ ) is a district of south-east London, England, which is shared between the London boroughs of Lewisham, Bromley and Southwark. Prior to the creation of the County of London in 1889, Sydenham was located in Kent, bordering Surrey. Historically, the area was very affluent, with the Crystal Palace being relocated to Sydenham Hill in 1854. Today, Sydenham is a diverse area, with a population of 28,378 (2011 census) [1] and borders Forest Hill, Dulwich, Crystal Palace, Penge, Beckenham, Catford and Bellingham.



A map showing the Sydenham ward of Lewisham Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916. Lewisham Met. B Ward Map 1916.svg
A map showing the Sydenham ward of Lewisham Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916.

Originally known as Shippenham, [2] Sydenham began as a small settlement, a few cottages among the woods, whose inhabitants grazed their animals and collected wood. In the 1640s, springs of water in what is now Wells Park were discovered to have medicinal properties, attracting crowds of people to the area. Sydenham grew rapidly in the 19th century after the introduction of the Croydon Canal in 1809 which linked the Grand Surrey Canal to Croydon and a reservoir was constructed in Sydenham. However, the canal was never successful and closed in 1836 [3] resulting in it being the first canal to be abandoned by an Act of Parliament. The London & Croydon Railway purchased the canal for £40,250 and quickly converted the alignment for a railway from London Bridge to West Croydon, opening in 1839. After the railway opened potential gas companies began to consider the Sydenham area with the Crystal Palace and District Gas Company having works at Bell Green, which continued production until 1969; a retail park now occupies most of the site.

The Crystal Palace Crystal Palace General view from Water Temple.jpg
The Crystal Palace

In 1851 the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park was housed in an immense glass building, called the Crystal Palace. In 1854 the building was bought by a private company, dismantled and re-erected at Penge Peak on Sydenham Hill (now Crystal Palace Park). Exhibitions, concerts, conferences and sporting events were held at the Crystal Palace (until it burned down in 1936), and Sydenham became a fashionable area with many new houses being built. In 1871 the French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro produced The Avenue, Sydenham, a largely still recognisable view on today's Lawrie Park Avenue; the painting is now owned by the National Gallery.

In 1860, the Walter Cobb department store at Lawrie Place, Kirkdale (now known as Cobbs Corner) opened, lasting until the 1980s. In 1872, the Children's Hospital, Sydenham opened. It closed in 1991, its services being now part of the University Hospital Lewisham. [4] In 1884, Upper Sydenham railway station opened on the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway linking Crystal Palace to London Victoria via Peckham Rye. [5] The station and the line were poorly used despite new houses being built in the area, as passengers preferred to use other stations near-by, Sydenham Hill (opening in 1863), Crystal Palace (Lower Level) and Sydenham which were on more direct routes. The ill fate of the Crystal Palace in 1936 saw patronage reduced and the route finally closed in 1954.

Sydenham was attacked by enemies during the Second World War. The gas works were a target, but were never damaged. The railway which ran through Upper Sydenham station was damaged, and some homes in the area were destroyed.

Local area

Sydenham is divided into several localities:

Apartment building on Sydenham Hill Sydenham Hill Apartments.JPG
Apartment building on Sydenham Hill

Sydenham Hill in the Boroughs of Lewisham and Southwark runs alongside Dulwich and Sydenham Woods on one of the highest points of Greater London being 112 metres above sea level. [6] From here, the City of London skyline is visible. Sydenham Hill has an abandoned railway tunnel from the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway located within the Woods. Another railway tunnel (one of the longest in Britain being 1,958 metres) goes beneath on the Chatham Main Line with Sydenham Hill station at the London end serving both Sydenham Hill and the College area of Dulwich.

Upper Sydenham is also located on Sydenham Hill and is a part of the Parish of St Bartholomew. It is diverse both racially and in terms of income; the central section of Kirkdale was Sydenham's original High Street. Renamed "Kirkdale" in 1936, the area now has a small range of shops including Tesco Express, local pubs and off-licences. Sydenham School is located on Dartmouth Road with Forest Hill Library and Forest Hill Pools alongside Thorpewood Avenue. Green Flag awarded Sydenham Wells Park, the location of the once famous Springs is one of the largest parks within the postcode. Upper Sydenham is also the location of the Sydenham Park allotments, the Sydenham electricity sub station which had a major fire in 2008 [7] and the Sydenham Hill estate.

Lower Sydenham & Bell Green is the location of the Sydenham Community Library, formerly run and funded by the local council. Alongside to the library is Home Park and the Home Park estate. The Bridge Leisure Centre is located on Kangley Bridge Road, near to Lower Sydenham railway station and an industrial estate home to Clarkes coach company, many other businesses and the Beckenham and Sydenham Cricket Ground. Bell Green retail park houses the Sydenham Gas Works and a large Sainsbury's superstore, formally part of the Savacentre brand. Other retailers include B&Q, Currys PC World, Next (with Costa Coffee), Aldi and McDonald's among others. The section of Kangley Bridge Road that runs south of Lower Sydenham Station is in the London Borough of Bromley and provides land for local employment. [8]

Commercial area

Sydenham's main commercial area begins on Kirkdale around Cobbs Corner, continuing onto Sydenham Road, often known as "Sydenham High Street". It houses many independent shops, including a bakery, bookshop and several restaurants. Furthermore, Sydenham is noted for the number of independent coffee shops. [9] Chain stores include Boots, Nando's, Lidl, Sainsbury's Local, Subway, Superdrug, Starbucks and Tesco Express. There is a Post Office branch and many estate agents. After recent closures, Natwest remains the only bank with a branch in the High Street. The first ever location of the Morley's chicken chain opened in Sydenham in 1985, and remains in operation today. [10] [11]

Since the Transport for London and Lewisham Council funded high street upgrade in 2012–13, there is now a monthly market located within the pocket squares, known as "Queensthorpe Square" and "Venner Square". The 18th century Greyhound pub, demolished by a developer without council permission in 2013, [12] was rebuilt and reopened in 2017. [13] Several new businesses are expected to open in 2018–19. [13] [ needs update ]


Sydenham has a very active community, with several groups concerning the local area. Sydenham Town is the local website for the area, where residents can also voice their opinions in an on-line form. [14] The Sydenham Society is a Civil society formed in 1972 to represent the local community. It holds local events, works with organisations and authorities as well as campaigning for improvements to the area. [15] Green Flag and Mayor of London Award winner, Sydenham Garden, was formed in 2002. It is a charity which is involved in improving the health of residents in the boroughs of Bromley and Lewisham. [16]

Sydenham with Forest Hill won a bid for the national Portas Pilot competition which provided a grant to improve high streets; extra money was provided from Lewisham Council and private developers. [17] Annually every summer since 2009, the Sydenham Arts Festival is held, where there are workshops, music, family activities etc. [18]

Conservation areas

Mayow Park was originally known as Sydenham Recreational Ground Mayow Park - - 840960.jpg
Mayow Park was originally known as Sydenham Recreational Ground

Sydenham has seven Conservation Areas: Cobbs Corner, Dulwich Village (covering Crescent Wood Road), [19] Halifax Street, Sydenham Hill/Kirkdale, Sydenham Park and Sydenham Thorpes. Sydenham has the highest concentration of conservation areas in the London Borough of Lewisham [20]


A number of parks are within the Sydenham postcode. Mayow Park, Lewisham's oldest municipal park [21] and Sydenham Wells Park [22] are both Green Flag Awarded. Other open spaces in Sydenham include Alexandra Recreation Ground, [23] Baxters Field, [24] Home Park [25] and Kirkdale Green. [26] Riverview Walk is a nature conservation area [27] which runs along the River Pool from Catford. Additionally, located along the borders of Sydenham, there are Crystal Palace Park, Dulwich Woods, Southend Park [28] and Sydenham Hill Woods.

Alongside Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods is the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf course, dating back to 1893. [29] Located on Lawrie Park Road, there is the Sydenham Tennis Club, while the Beckenham and Sydenham Cricket Ground and the Lewisham Indoor Bowls Centre are both located in the Lower Sydenham industrial estate.

Sydenham Arts

Sydenham Arts is a local charitable organisation, [30] promoting the arts for the local community, which provides free and ticketed cultural events at several festivals through the year. [31] [32] [33] Their mission is to provide, promote and advance the Arts for the benefit of the public, in particular people who live, work and are educated in Sydenham and surrounding areas. [34] In June 2016, former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion, who spoke at Sydenham Arts Festival in 2011, was quoted saying "Sydenham Arts Festival is exemplary: packed with high-quality speakers from elsewhere, but also fully alive to and supportive of things growing close to home. It means that imaginable adventures can combine with imaginative confirmations - just as they should. Long may it flourish." [35]

Notable buildings and structures

Drinking fountain erected to commemorate the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and restored for the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 1977 Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II memorial Kirkdale Sydenham 7 Dec 2021.jpg
Drinking fountain erected to commemorate the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and restored for the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 1977


There are five non-religious primary schools in Sydenham (Alexandra, Adamsrill, Eliot Bank, Haseltine and Kelvin Grove) and three religious schools (St. Michael's, St Philip Neri and St. Bartholomew's Church of England). Sydenham contains two secondary schools, the private Sydenham High School and the state Sydenham School. Both of these schools are exclusively for girls. Forest Hill (for boys) is just outside Sydenham across from Mayow Park. Other secondary schools close by include Harris Bromley (for girls), Harris Crystal Palace, Sedgehill and the private Dulwich College. There are no colleges in Sydenham, but Sydenham and Forest Hill schools have a joint sixth form.


According to the 2011 census, the SE26 postcode area had a population of 28,378, with 13,714 males and 14,664 females. [1]

Famous residents

Sir George Grove English Heritage Blue Plaque at Westwood Hill Sir GEORGE GROVE 1820-1900 Promoter of Musical Knowledge lived here.jpg
Sir George Grove English Heritage Blue Plaque at Westwood Hill
Blue plaque marking the home of Ernest Shackleton at 12 Westwood Hill, Sydenham Ernest Shackleton Plaque.jpg
Blue plaque marking the home of Ernest Shackleton at 12 Westwood Hill, Sydenham
Burnage Court, Lawrie Park Avenue, Sydenham, complete with 1888 datestone Burnage Court, Lawrie Park Avenue, SE26 (1888) 5 Feb 2022.jpg
Burnage Court, Lawrie Park Avenue, Sydenham, complete with 1888 datestone


Southern and London Overground trains at Sydenham Units 378142 and 455821 at Sydenham.JPG
Southern and London Overground trains at Sydenham

Sydenham is served by National Rail and London Buses for its public transport. Sydenham is located in Travelcard Zones 3 and 4.

Railway stations


The area is served by routes 75, 122, 176, 181, 194, 197, 202, 227, 352, 356, 363, 450 and N63 linking Sydenham to Central London, Lewisham, Catford, Croydon, Thornton Heath, Bromley, Shirley, Peckham, Camberwell, Elephant & Castle, Blackheath, Forest Hill, Penge, South Norwood and Grove Park. [62] [63] [64] [65]


The South Circular Road passes close by in Forest Hill. High Street improvements being funded by Transport for London from September 2012 are making the increasingly busy Sydenham Road (A212) more user friendly. So far, Kirkdale to Mayow Road has been completed, with Mayow Road to Kent House Road currently, as of December 2013, being upgraded. The Kent House Road to Bell Green section is still waiting for funding to be found. [66]


The River Pool at Lower Sydenham Pool River and National Cycle Route 21 - - 96626.jpg
The River Pool at Lower Sydenham

Sydenham is approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) to the south east of Charing Cross. It is also at the centre of many of south London's major shopping districts being 3 mi (5 km) south of Lewisham, 3.2 mi (5.1 km) north west of Bromley and 3+12 mi (5.6 km) north of Croydon.

Upper Sydenham and Sydenham Hill is located on the large Norwood Ridge formed of London Claygate beds deposits; Sydenham Hill is one of the highest points in London at 367 feet (112 m). Sydenham Hill Wood is a nine-hectare [67] nature reserve located west of Sydenham Hill Road, along with Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf course. The hill was once covered by the Great North Wood which covered all of Sydenham, Norwood, Woodside, Gipsy Hill etc. In the 19th Century it was home to the spa and health resort of Sydenham Wells.

The western parts of Sydenham, from Upper Sydenham and Forest Hill towards Crystal Palace Park is a more leafy, suburban area with some parts like the Lawrie Park and Thorpes areas being more affluent than others. Lower Sydenham at the bottom of more gentle slopes being east of Upper Sydenham, south of Forest Hill and west of Bellingham. The River Pool, a 5.1 mi (8.2 km) tributary of the River Ravensbourne straddles the east of Lower Sydenham along the Hayes railway line.


The nearest Met Office climate station is based in Greenwich Park:

Record high °C (°F)17.2
Average high °C (°F)8.4
Daily mean °C (°F)5.6
Average low °C (°F)2.7
Record low °C (°F)−16.1
Average precipitation mm (inches)58.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)80777065676565697378818173
Average dew point °C (°F)3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 61.178.8124.5176.7207.5208.4217.8202.1157.1115.270.755.01,674.8
Percent possible sunshine 23283140414142454035272135
Average ultraviolet index 1124566542103
Source 1: Met Office [68] [69] [70] Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute [71] [72]
Source 2: Weather Atlas (percent sunshine and UV Index) [73] CEDA Archive [74] TORRO [75] Time and Date [76]

See Climate of London for additional climate information.

  1. Averages are taken from Heathrow, and extremes are taken from stations across London.



The Beast of Sydenham of 2005, was a large, panther-like black animal, which had been spotted around the area, and attacked a man. The beast was said to be 6 ft in length and 3 ft in height. [77] [78]

According to The Literary Miscellany, "John Hussey of Sydenham died in 1748 at the age of 116 years. For upwards of fifty years his breakfast had been balm-tea (lemon balm) sweetened with honey; and his dinner had been pudding; by which he acquired regular health".[ citation needed ]

The David Bowie song Can't Help Thinking About Me was written about his time living in Sydenham.[ citation needed ]

In March 2022, a crested caracara, named Jester, which escaped London Zoo, was spotted in Mayow Park, Sydenham. [79]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Crystal Palace is a leafy and hilly area in South London, named after the Crystal Palace Exhibition building which stood in the area from 1854, until it was destroyed by fire in 1936. About 7 miles (11 km) southeast of Charing Cross, it includes one of the highest points in London, at 367 feet (112 m), offering views over the capital. The area has no defined boundaries and straddles five London boroughs and three postal districts, although there is a Crystal Palace electoral ward and Crystal Palace Park in the London Borough of Bromley. It forms a part of the greater area known as Upper Norwood, and is contiguous with the areas of Anerley, Dulwich Wood, Gipsy Hill, Penge, South Norwood and Sydenham.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Penge</span> Human settlement in England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lewisham</span> Area of London

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Honor Oak</span> Human settlement in England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gipsy Hill</span> Area of south London

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">A212 road</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sydenham Hill Wood</span>

Sydenham Hill Wood is a ten-hectare wood on the northern slopes of the Norwood Ridge in the London Borough of Southwark. It is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. With the adjacent Dulwich Wood, Sydenham Hill Wood is the largest extant tract of the ancient Great North Wood. The two woods are formed from coppices known as Lapsewood, Old Ambrook Hill Wood and Peckarmans Wood after the relocation of The Crystal Palace in 1854 and the creation of the high level line in 1865.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sydenham Wells Park</span> Park in London, England

Sydenham Wells Park is located in Sydenham, south east London. It includes parks and fields. The park is owned by the London Borough of Lewisham and maintained by Glendale. Wells Park is named after medicinal springs which were found in Sydenham in the seventeenth century, when Sydenham was still in Kent. This attracted crowds of people to the area. Some of the former wells in the area are within the park's grounds and the springs are still active. In 1901 the park was opened to the public and is one of nine parks in the borough to have a Green flag award. Open times vary throughout the year.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mayow Park</span>

Mayow Park, formerly known as Sydenham Recreation Ground, is a municipal park in London Borough of Lewisham. Located on Mayow Road in Sydenham, south east London, it is the borough's oldest park and its second oldest public open space after Blackheath. The park has a Green Flag Award.


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